SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
More than 30 Joint Task Force-Bravo members conducted a Medical Readiness Training Exercise in El Salvador Feb. 25-27 and provided aid to 1600 people.
These exercises bring together key members of the U.S. and foreign militaries, U.S. Embassy Country Teams, U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations, Host Nation government agencies and indigenous civilian organizations.
"We mostly provide preventative medications," said Maj. Nora Ashby, JTF-Bravo Medical Operations Officer. We give them things like de-wormer medication, vitamins and soap to help prevent illness. Other patients require antibiotics which we're also able to provide."
This El Salvador MEDRETE allowed the JTF-B team to work side-by-side with El Salvador military members and medical caregivers to provide aid in three locations; Isla Corral Mulas, Canton El Espino and Jucuaran.
"In the three days we treated approximately 1600 people so the MEDRETE was a success," said Major Ashby.
Translators were also on hand to assist non-Spanish-speaking personnel but Senior Airman Maria Barrett was one member who was able to communicate with the patients directly.
"It helps to be bilingual," Airman Barrett said. "This way you get a better sense of what the patient is trying to get across. Sometimes symptoms can be misinterpreted and having the advantage of speaking two languages is really beneficial."
Airman Barrett was working in the screening section where patients explain symptoms and the screener either treats the patient or refers them to a provider.
"We do treat simple cases at this stage," she said. "We can give medications for headaches, joint pains and cramping then we sort the other ailments and refer them to the doctors if necessary."
The majority of patients are treated at the site but occasionally there are patients who cannot be treated in the field condition. The team coordinates with local clinics ahead of time and has ambulances in place should they need to transport patients.
"When we have a patient we can't help we refer them to the local authorities and ensure they get the help they need," said Dr. Miguel Coello, MEDEL liaison officer. "We did have a case today (Feb. 26 at the Canton El Espino site) that we had to refer to the local clinic."
According to Dr. Coello, a sixty-year-old woman arrived complaining of chest pains and a constant pain in her left arm.
"Her vital signs were normal and her blood work was normal so we gave her an aspirin and had her relax for a while," he said. "She later complained of dizziness and said she felt faint and began hyperventilating. I was convinced Mrs. Rivera was suffering from anxiety and we weren't equipped to treat her for that so we called Centra Salud, (the local government health clinic) then took her over there... the treatment she is getting there is exactly what she needs."
MEDRETEs provide U.S. military personnel training in delivery of medical care in austere conditions, promoting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and host nations in Central America, and providing humanitarian and civic assistance via a long-term proactive program.
"It's really fulfilling to help people and make a difference in their lives," said Airman Barrett. "I really enjoy looking back and noticing what I've done to make a difference in people's lives. It's really great being out here, I wish I could do this more often."
Joint Task Force-Bravo has been conducting MEDRETES in Central America since Oct. 1, 1993.